Troy hits the road to face ULM in conference game

Published 10:28 am Friday, November 10, 2023

The Troy Trojans (7-2, 4-1) are on the road this Saturday, Nov. 11, against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (2-7, 0-6) in a Sun Belt Conference clash.

The Trojans are coming off an emotional rivalry win over South Alabama last Thursday and the Trojans got a extra few days of a rest as a result of the midweek game.

“We had a team meeting at 7:15 (a.m. on Friday), which was really just to tell (the players) to enjoy the weekend and be smart and make sure they go to class on Friday,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said. “I checked classes all day until about 1 (p.m.). I rode around campus in my golf cat checking classes. Coaching staff wise, we were recruiting high school football on Friday and we had three or four coaches recruiting junior colleges on Saturday. Sunday we got back into our normal flow of a game week.”

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That extra rest may have done the trick as both safety Keyshawn Swanson and center Eli Russ are expected back in the lineup this week. While Sumrall didn’t expound on the injuries that either were dealing with, he emphasized the need to protect his players.

“Russ got cleared today and I think he should be able to play this week,” Sumrall said. “Football matters and winning games matter, but we make these decisions around here like they are all our sons. We have great medical professionals here that make those decisions about how someone is or isn’t cleared to play. I have no part of the decision of whether someone is cleared.

“Eli should be available and Keyshawn I also think will be available. We held them both and I think Keyshawn definitely could have played (last week) but I thought it was in his best interest to hold him and protect him.”

The Trojans turned their attention to ULM, who is coming off a 24-7 loss to Southern Miss last week. Sumrall was quick to point out that records can be deceiving, however.

“Last time we went (to Monroe, La.) was 2021. I wasn’t here but the game did not go in our favor, we lost 29-13,” Sumrall recalled. “They are a dangerous team. Their record may not be what they want it to be but they have good players and good coaches and have been in a lot of close games.

“They lost a one-point game to Appalachian State on a game-ending field goal and lost by one point to Texas State on the road. They are probably a better team than their record.”

ULM also upset Army earlier this season, which is a game that Sumrall said he would point at to emphasize that the Warhawks are a dangerous group.

“Every week in college football you get an opportunity to promote yourself or get exposed,” he said. “These guys are a quality team that if we don’t prepare to play really well, we will get exposed. They have some players on their team that if they were here they would be playing a lot of football for us.

“I will reiterate that Army score and that they lose a one-point game to Appalachian State and the last time we showed up in Monroe, La., the game was not won by Troy. Every week in college football you see upsets and it’s my job to make sure our guys understand it takes what it takes; there is no shortcuts. You don’t get the outcome you want by doing the minimum.”

ULM is currently ranked last in the Sun Belt in scoring offense, last in total offense, 12th in rushing offense and last in passing offense. Meanwhile, the ULM defense is 13th in scoring defense, last in total defense, 13th in rushing defense and 13th in passing defense.

The Trojans come into the contest in first place of the Sun Belt West with Texas State and Arkansas State – both teams Troy holds head-to-head wins over – in second place. Troy ranks ninth in scoring offense in the conference but first in scoring defense. The Trojans are fifth in total offense, eighth in rushing offense and fourth in passing offense, while the Troy defense sits in first place of total defense and passing defense and second in rushing defense.

Troy’s Kimani Vidal leads the conference in rushing with 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns, while Gunnar Watson is fourth in passing with 2,440 yards and 17 touchdowns. Troy’s Chris Lewis leads the conference with 24.3 yards per catch this season.

Troy and ULM play at 1 p.m. on Saturday in a game that will stream on ESPN+.